Daily Telegraph – 9 May 2016
This promises to be a big week in the EU referendum debate. A campaign that already seems to have been going on for ever will begin in earnest today now that the local elections are out of the way. David Cameron is to make a speech on security, arguing that it is possible to be both patriotic and recognise the importance to the country of staying in the European Union.
In warning of the risks of leaving, he has received the backing of two former intelligence heads though not, as the article on the page opposite testifies, the Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee.
But the Prime Minister’s speech promises to rise above the level of debate we have seen so far, which has tended to focus on the financial implications of Brexit and will ask serious questions about Britain’s role in keeping Europe stable.
“Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it,”
Mr Cameron is expected to say,
“we have always had to go back in, and always at much higher cost.”
Over the centuries, this country has paid heavily in blood and treasure because of events in continental Europe brought about by the efforts of various countries to dominate and subjugate.
This is a powerful point. It implies that, were the UK to leave, some of the worst propensities of European nations would be unleashed to everyone’s detriment. We are an anchor of stability on which the European ship relies to avoid hitting the rocks again. On the other hand, as Julian Lewis argues, the EU’s pursuit of a foreign and defence role could itself be considered a threat to peace because it undermines the primacy of NATO, whose doctrine of mutual defence is the absolute guarantor against aggression.
We are now getting to the heart of the matter and it will be for the Leave campaign to answer these points directly rather than just dismiss them as alarmist. Boris Johnson, the erstwhile mayor of London and the biggest gun in the Leave campaign’s arsenal, is also expected to speak today and throw himself into the campaign more forcefully than he has been able to so far.
At the weekend, Michael Gove set out a possible timetable for disengaging the UK from Europe, which is an essential requirement that voters will want to know before making their decision. There is a palpable sense that the most important debate this country has had for half a century is now entering a crucial phase.